Mary Novak joined Resolution Systems Institute (RSI) in 2012 as Resource Center Director. In this role, she gathers, writes and publishes information on RSI’s key online resources: RSI’s Court ADR Resource Center; RSI’s Just Court ADR blog; and RSI’s monthly e-newsletter, Court ADR Connection. She also responds to inquiries concerning court ADR from across the country.
Ms. Novak received her J.D. cum laude from Northwestern University School of Law, where she became active in mediation. Through the Center for Conflict Resolution, she mediated numerous small claims cases. Ms. Novak also served on the school’s Law Review and assisted Prof. Joseph Margulies on the research and editing of his upcoming book.
Ms. Novak had a varied career before coming to RSI and the mediation field. She spent four years teaching in Japan and served a year of AmeriCorps on each coast. She has an M.A. in Arts Management from the University of Oregon, and received her B.A. from the Plan II Liberal Arts Honors Program at the University of Texas.
Contact Mary Novak
Domestic Violence Finding Overrides Agreement to Mediate
A case in the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court stands as a reminder of the complexities of family mediation when domestic violence is involved. Indeed, the court found that a finding of domestic violence can trump a requirement to mediate.
Court ADR Trends for 2015
Last year perhaps the most visible trend in court ADR was the courts’ use of mediation to address truly large-scale crises. From the mediators who helped opposing groups reach the Grand Bargain that led Detroit out of bankruptcy, to the mediations being used to address thousands of insurance claims that remain from Hurricane Sandy, courts essentially created ad-hoc ADR programs to respond to major crises.
The Ups and Downs of ADR Policymaking
This is the story of how a law intended to increase mediation use led to a dramatic drop-off in mediation and what was done to try to fix the error.
Facebook’s Templates for Conflict Resolution and Court ADR
Facebook recently announced its creation of a self-guided dispute resolution system for users. The company has designed a new user-to-user conflict resolution system that could have implications for court ADR systems as well. As in the courts, Facebook must process a large number of conflicts. While the company manages reports of issues such as threats and graphic violence, they wanted to provide users with tools to handle insults and embarrassing photos on their own. The company worked with a team from Yale to research users’ needs and design a large-scale conflict resolution system.
Values and Interests Revealed in Detroit “Grand Bargain”
The story of the Detroit bankruptcy mediation’s emerging “Grand Bargain” (as it has been dubbed in the media) is a fascinating case of many different groups working to protect their chosen interests. The bargain demonstrates how mediation allows parties to consider what they are willing to give in order to secure the things that matter most to them, and how traditional rivals may collaborate for a shared goal.
Settlement Conferences and the Price of Contempt
In a settlement conference, what is the value of having someone present with full authority to settle? If one party lacks the authority, it can result in aggravation, wasted court fees, and lost time for trial preparation. American Family Insurance (AFI) recently learned this to their cost in a dog-bite case in Washoe County, Nevada. Because Judge Janet Berry did not believe the insurers had complied in good faith with her rules on authority to settle, she found the company in contempt and sanctioned them $50,000.
A Child’s Best Interest Comes Second to Mediation Finality: In re Lee
“…I’m not going to accept this MSA. I’m not going to give her any kind of visitation….No way. I’m not going to put a kid in a house with a sex offender who violates a child. Not accepted. Appeal me."
New Perspective on Domestic Violence and Mediation in Montana
The original Montana provisions for family court mediation, enacted in 1993, attempted to shield abuse survivors from attending mediation with their abusers. This reflected a national focus on the issue at the time. Section 40-4-301 of the Montana Code Annotated allowed courts to require any parties to participate in family law mediation. However, it made an exception for domestic violence.
A Court Clash on Confidentiality and Mediation Policy
The Indiana Supreme Court recently declared that the state’s judicial policy supports “robust confidentiality” in mediation. In doing so, the court vacated a Court of Appeals ruling that would have expanded the circumstances in which confidentiality could be broken to obtain evidence. The two rulings reflect a strong contrast in interpretations of ADR rules and judicial policy toward mediation.
Clients Choose Mediation Based on Mediator’s Words and Silences
Recently, I had the good fortune to attend an outstanding webinar by Professor of Social Interaction Elizabeth Stokoe, hosted by the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM). Professor Stokoe performs conversation analysis on interactions between mediators and parties. In her presentation, she discussed four common problems mediators may encounter during intake calls with potential clients who are involved in a neighbor-to-neighbor dispute. The problems can lead to the potential client rejecting the opportunity to mediate.
Promoting ADR on the Go
As the Resource Center Director at RSI, I receive questions about Court ADR and do my best to help people through our extensive database. When the questions have general interest, I like to completely rewrite them and share them with our readers.